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18: A Spoiled Child Never Loves Its Mother
June 22, 2005
by Tony Zizza

Here's something I don't understand. Please accept my apology for this unwanted ignorance. What is it about turning 18 that turns a spoiled child into, well, an even more spoiled child? Even more curiously, what makes the spoiling parent suffer from the illusion their brand new 18 year-old is finally a competent, caring, and courageous adult?

The age of 18 in this country has nothing to do with having suddenly reached mature adulthood. A child could prove themselves practically unmotivated by choice over the last five years in school, but once the age of 18 is reached, you can bet the spoiled child and the spoiling parent think (incorrectly) that they have reached the promised land.

You see, it's a fact that being a step parent (or any parent) to a teenager is a major challenge. Such is adolescence. Such is life. Such is the way it always will be. Like country singer Lee Ann Womack says, "I hope you dance." Perhaps having it any other way would be a cause for concern. You would have to check everyone's pulse.

However, there is a reason why raising teenagers and succeeding as a step family becomes an absolute impossibility. Maybe it's not so much a "reason" in and of itself, as it is the prevailing philosophy that guides the family, and determines the future. Ideas have consequences, especially in a step family.

I submit that the "As long as I just pass" philosophy that too many children and parents share and live is a path to destruction. Even at the ripe old age of 18, this bankrupt philosophy can still lead children to be forever hostile to a step parent's offer of love, guidance, and financial help. The "As long as I just pass" philosophy of life is most certainly empty on expectation.

A sense of expectation is what brings not only step families, but individuals themselves, together. Like a united front. Like a flag waving proudly. Like a pack of wolves on the prowl. There's nothing quite like the bond that develops when a family unit is respected and honored by children themselves. This is so key, especially for step children.

Too often though, the age of 18 signals to everyone around, that the family unit is allegedly no longer needed. Nothing could be more misguided. Keep this in mind, when you consider how many step children have been allowed to live "the spoiled life." It all comes right back to the reality that with freedom comes responsibility.

The 18 year-old step child, (or any child for that matter) who has been hostile to self-improvement, self-actualization, self-worth, will not be "given" these qualities just because they're now - 18. Again, the age of 18 comes with an incredible amount of freedom, but the age itself is largely just a number. There are a great number of 18 year-old children and their parents who are truly 18 only in - number.

I think that if we want step families (and all families) to stick together for the long haul, if we want children to succeed as adults, we must enforce a sense of expectation in the household. Even a household full of teenagers. No matter the cost. After all, if children are not shown that with their freedom comes their responsibility to be accountable, than do we not shudder to think what these human beings will be like in say, ten years?

I've always tried to live my life with this thought process in mind. If you do the small things in life, even when some of the big things don't completely work out, you won't have to contend with a steady stream of big mistakes. That is, as a parent always remain one step ahead of your children. No matter how much thinking you have to do on your feet.

We're all guilty of having been 18 and falsely believing we were perfect masters of our domain. Again, and only for the fact that our ID says we're - 18. Full of brand new knowledge. Full of brand new ideas. Full of brand new energy. Full of - you know what. And not even knowing it. Or more likely, not willing to see how complicated life can really be when you don't - listen.

So, if you get anything out of this column, let it please be this. Hold your 18 year-old (child) accountable for their actions even if by law in some areas they're legally an adult. There is no expiration date to parenthood and wanting to see your children evolve into good human beings on this Earth.

Truth is, you don't need me to tell you that a step family or family of any size is a ship sailing out to sea if respect and accountability are not its most sturdy anchors.

Zizza serves as Vice President for the State of Georgia for the non-profit organization, Parents For Label and Drug Free Education.

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